We testified about the challenges the U.S. Coast Guard faces managing its aging shore infrastructure—its piers, boat stations, runways, etc.—almost half of which is beyond its service life.
In our prior work, we found the Coast Guard took steps to make its shore infrastructure more resilient, helping to reduce its vulnerability to natural disasters. However, we also found that the Coast Guard didn't provide complete information in its annual budget request about the amount of money it needs to rebuild and repair its infrastructure.
We recommended that the Coast Guard include more information in its annual budget requests and related reports.
Damage to Coast Guard Station in Sabine Pass, TX caused by Hurricane Ike
What GAO Found
In 2019, GAO found that almost half of the Coast Guard's shore infrastructure was past its service life and the extent of costs to address its maintenance and recapitalization (major renovations) project backlogs may be understated. GAO also found that Coast Guard data showed at least $2.6 billion in costs to address its backlogs for its $18 billion portfolio of shore infrastructure.
The Coast Guard has taken initial steps toward improving how it manages its infrastructure. For example, in 2019 GAO found weaknesses in how the Coast Guard prioritized shore infrastructure investments. GAO recommended that it incorporate resilience—the ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, and recover from, or successfully adapt to adverse events—into its risk management. In 2021, the Coast Guard revised how it prioritizes infrastructure investments, including incorporating resilience into planning by, for example, identifying the infrastructure most critical to mission operations.
The Coast Guard continues to face challenges in ensuring that its infrastructure investments meet mission and user needs. For example, in 2019 GAO found that the Coast Guard has not provided accurate information to Congress about its requirements-based budget targets for shore infrastructure in its budget requests and its project backlogs. Specifically, Coast Guard recapitalization targets for shore assets were at least $290 million annually, but its budget requests for fiscal years 2012 through 2021 ranged from about $5 million to about $99 million annually (see figure). GAO previously recommended that the Coast Guard include supporting details about competing project alternatives and report trade-offs in congressional budget requests and related reports. The Coast Guard agreed with GAO's recommendation. GAO continues to follow up on the status of the Coast Guard's actions in response to this and other prior GAO recommendations aimed at improving the Coast Guard's management of its infrastructure.
Allotments for Shore Infrastructure, Amount Requested, and Shore Infrastructure Requirements-based Budget as Determined by the U.S. Coast Guard, Fiscal Years 2012 through 2021
Why GAO Did This Study
The Coast Guard, within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), owns or leases more than 20,000 shore facilities—such as piers, boat stations, air stations, runways, and housing units—at more than 2,700 locations.
This statement addresses (1) the condition of Coast Guard infrastructure, (2) Coast Guard actions to improve management of its shore infrastructure, and (3) challenges for the Coast Guard to address. This statement is based primarily on four GAO products issued from October 2017 through July 2020 and updates as of October 2021 on actions the Coast Guard has taken to address recommendations from these reports.
GAO analyzed relevant Coast Guard documents and management processes, and interviewed Coast Guard officials. To conduct updates, GAO also reviewed Coast Guard budget information and other documentation, and interviewed officials on actions taken to implement prior GAO recommendations.
GAO has made recommendations in prior reports to improve the Coast Guard's asset management efforts, including reporting shore infrastructure needs more completely and accurately. DHS concurred with most of these recommendations and, in some cases, has taken steps toward addressing them.